by Hannah Bunkin
On Nov. 1, a bustling crowd gathered in High Springs. The occasion? To make our position clear: we reject Nestlé as it prepares to privatize our water. Over 9,000 comments have been submitted to the SRWMD to review as it considers renewing Seven Springs Water Co.’s permit to withdraw 1.152 million gallons of water per day from Ginnie Springs.
Crucially, Nestlé is one among many threats to our watershed to naturally exist, flourish, regenerate, and evolve. These activities also threaten the rights of the residents of Alachua County to a healthy, flourishing Santa Fe River and the right to pure, clean, unpolluted water.
However, as of now, we cannot enforce those rights because they are not recognized under our current legal system. If we want to stand in solidarity with the communities most vulnerable to government neglect and corporate extractivism, we should look to several tribes who have instituted Rights of Nature laws in their tribal constitutions: the Ho-Chunk Nation in 2016, the Ponca Nation in 2018, the White Earth Band of the Chippewa Nation in 2018, and the Yurok Tribe in September of this year.
Communities in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado and New Hampshire have adopted Rights of Nature ordinances and laws.
We can build upon these past victories by amending the Alachua County Charter to recognize the Rights of the Santa Fe River. In order to do this, we need 18,000 signatures by February 21 to put the Bill of Rights on the ballot next November, and we need all the help we can get.
If you haven’t yet, please sign the petition (available at safebor.org) or pick up a stack of blank petitions from the Alachua County Labor Coalition’s office. Pass them out to your friends, coworkers, family, and neighbors. Bring them to picnics and potlucks, to festivals and art shows, to book clubs and drag shows.
And if you can commit to ten hours a week or 150 signatures a week, we’ll hire you to join our team and support you in becoming an effective ambassador for the Santa Fe River. Email safeborAC@gmail.com for more information on those opportunities or with any questions you may have.